Weekend links 411

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The Temple of Love (1911–24) by Herbert E. Crowley.

• My film viewing in the 1980s involved a considerable amount of backtracking: watching any film noir that turned up on the TV while chasing the early works of David Cronenberg, and various “New Hollywood” classics on television or at repertory cinemas (when such things were still plentiful). Contemporary fare by comparison was often a lot less attractive, although I’d be waiting for new work from David Lynch and Nicolas Roeg while pursuing obscurities (usually the banned or censored) on videotape. Popular films seldom generated actual loathing but throughout the decade I nurtured a persistent hatred for the works of John Hughes, an animus that can still return today when I read yet another nostalgic article about his oeuvre.

The monoculture of the 1980s was writ large on American cinema of the decade. From Arnold Schwarzenegger’s muscle-rippling actioners to John Hughes’s adolescent confections, bombastic, generally upbeat films characterised the decade of the yuppie.

Christina Newland offers a welcome riposte to the pastel-hued retrospectives in a piece entitled “Reagan’s bastard children: the lost teens of 1980s American indie films”. While not exclusively teen pictures, I’d have mentioned three low-budget films written by Eric Red: The Hitcher (1986), Near Dark (1987) and Cohen and Tate (1989).

The Temple of Silence: Forgotten Works & Worlds of Herbert Crowley is a lavish (and costly) study of the strange comic strips and incredibly detailed drawings of Herbert E. Crowley (1873–1937). Mark Newgarden interviewed Justin Duerr about rescuing Crowley’s art from undeserved neglect. I missed an earlier interview by Steven Heller with Temple of Silence publisher Josh O’Neill. There’s more: The Wiggle Much a Tumblr devoted to Crowley’s comic strips and other artwork. (Ta to Jay for the tip!)

Pandemic is an interactive film by John Bradburn for The Science Museum. “A pandemic is causing heart failure–how far will you go to create a pig/human hybrid to provide donor organs?” The multiple choice begins at YouTube; there’s also a behind the scenes feature at the Museum blog, and a trailer. Anyone who remembers a certain scene in Lindsay Anderson’s O Lucky Man! may hesitate before playing.

Given the plain palette of so much 1969–70 rock—jammed-out bluesy boogie in the Canned Heat and Allman Brothers mode, nasal pseudo-country harmony singing à la CSN&Y and their afterbirth—it is tempting to imagine an entirely alternative history for rock. It’s a parallel world where Fifty Foot Hose’s Cauldron, United States of America’s self-titled album and synthedelic oddities from Syrinx, Silver Apples, Beaver & Krause and Tonto’s Expanding Head Band were just the run-up to a giant leap into the electronic future.

Simon Reynolds in an excellent piece on one of my favourite musical sub-genres, electronic psychedelia

• The week in animated film: Emerald Rush, a video for an extract from Jon Hopkins’ new album, Singularity; Awaken Akira, a short homage to Katsuhiro Otomo’s graphic novel/film by Ash Thorp and Zaoeyo; Extra (1996), a video by one of the Akira animators, Koji Morimoto, for music by Ken Ishii.

Tenebrous Kate on The Powers of Darkness & The Powers of the Mind: The Legacy of Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon. Related: a look at the film’s shooting script and pressbook.

• At Dangerous Minds: John Gray, the pre-Bosie lover of Oscar Wilde, and the man whose surname is memorialised in Wilde’s most famous creation, Dorian Gray.

• Skewing the Picture: China Miéville posts the full text of an essay from 2016 about the rural weird.

• Share a pastrami sandwich with TED Klein in Episode 65 of Eating the Fantastic.

• More Hodgsoniana: The Land of Lonesomeness, a short story by Sam Gafford.

• At The Quietus: Barry Miles on William Burroughs’ years in London.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Curtis Harrington Day.

Night Of The Assassins (1977?) by Les Rallizes Dénudés | Night Of The Earth (1980) by Chrome | Night Of The Swallow (1982) by Kate Bush

Synthesizing

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Tangerine Dream’s Chris Franke, 1973.

Following yesterday’s post, more synth-mania with an emphasis on the Analogue Seventies. YouTube is laden with this stuff but the best things often take some searching out.

Tangerine Dream, Paris, 1973
This is one I’d not seen before, Tangerine Dream when they were still in their Krautrock phase prior to signing to Virgin. The music sounds like outtakes from the Atem album, and as usual with these films it’s great to see what instruments are being used.

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Tangerine Dream at Coventry Cathedral, 1975
Baumann, Franke and Froese again performing one of their cathedral concerts. Tony Palmer directed this but the sound was lost so the 27-minute film has edits of the Ricochet album as the soundtrack. (See Voices in the Net.) Ricochet was compiled from live recordings from the same period so it’s not so inappropriate.

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Klaus Schulze, 1977
Klaus Schulze played drums on the first Tangerine Dream album, Electronic Meditation (1970), but was never an official member of the group. This lengthy improvisation is typical of the swathes of beatless music he was producing for much of the 1970s.

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Laurie Spiegel, 1977
Laurie Spiegel demonstrates one of the earliest digital synthesizers. Spiegel’s 1980 album, The Expanding Universe, was reissued in 2012, and is well worth seeking out. There’s more rare analogue and digital synthesis on her YouTube channel.

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Vangelis, 1978
Vangelis in the studio recording the China (1979) album. If you can overlook the Chinoiserie clichés there’s some very good music on this release, some of which looks forward to the Blade Runner soundtrack.

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3-2-1 Contact, 1980
A great little film with Suzanne Ciani demonstrating synthesizers for a show on the Children’s Television Workshop. Featuring an oscilloscope and a Prophet 5.

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The Original New Timbral Orchestra
Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff made their name as Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, “Tonto” being Cecil’s custom-built TONTO (The Original and New Timbral Orchestra) synthesizer. Cecil shows off his analogue gear in this short film.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Tangerine Dream in Poland
Electronic Music Review
Tonto’s expanding frog men
A Clockwork Orange: The Complete Original Score
White Noise: Electric Storms, Radiophonics and the Delian Mode

Tonto’s expanding frog men

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I wasn’t going to write about album cover art three times in a row but things keep catching my attention this week. Anyone interested in the history of electronic music knows the name Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, the duo formed by Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff to create music with Cecil’s huge, custom-built TONTO (The Original and New Timbral Orchestra) synthesizer. Cecil and Margouleff recorded two albums together: Zero Time (1971) and It’s About Time (1974), the latter credited to Tonto only. Zero Time was incredibly advanced for 1971, not classical adaptations like those being produced by Wendy Carlos and her many imitators, but all-original pieces created polyphonically, a feat that only the TONTO synth could easily achieve.

Given how successful the album is musically I’ve always thought it a shame that the sleeve art, inside and out, was the kind of amateurish “psychedelic” doodling that you find on many albums of this period. The design above was for a 1975 reissue, something I’d not seen before. The artist was illustrator Jeffrey Schrier who has a small, and no doubt incomplete, listing at Discogs with nothing similar to this in evidence. At a guess I’d say the evolving frog men are derived from the lyrics of Riversong, a meandering piece with singing processed via early vocoder-style technology, something that Wendy Carlos was also experimenting with. It’s not all hippy ambience: Jetsex sounds like an outtake from Kraftwerk’s Autobahn (albeit three years early) while Timewhys wouldn’t have been out-of-place on The Human League’s Travelogue album almost a decade later. Easy to see why Stevie Wonder and others were eager to work with Malcolm Cecil throughout the 1970s.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
A Clockwork Orange: The Complete Original Score